Speaker Ideas upto $2500

I've finally decided to jump into the audiophile areana after lurking here for a while and I was looking for speakers that would go well with an integrated amp like the bel canto s300iu. I'm willing to buy used gear as it would save me a significant chunk. So I was looking at Zu Druids but I've seen quite a number of comments implying that I can do better for the price these days, so I am looking for suggestions. I listen to a wide variety of music (a little of everything except country) so I don't want to get a speaker that excels in only just one genre. I'm not going to comment on the room dimensions/properties because I expect to be moving by next year. Oh and I would like subwoofer recommendations for the speakers that people suggest if that's possible.
Zu Druids are not a good idea. You can drive something fairly inefficient with that amp. Since you are moving and planning on a sub then get some small monitors that do not try to plumb the depths. Totem, Dynaudio, GMA, ATC, Harbeth or B&W might be a good place to start looking. Have you heard anything you like?
If your amp can handle a speaker impedance which drops down to 1.6 ohms at 20kHz (I don't know if the s300iu can or not), you might also want to consider the Martin-Logan Source, at around $2200 new. I haven't heard it, but reviews have been very positive, and I would expect it to offer better transparency (both literally and figuratively!) than most speakers in its price range.


-- Al
I've been living with a pair of Mirage OMD-15s for nearly a year. I liked them when I got them, but I like them even better the more I listen to them. They are deceptively versatile, having good low-level detail, smooth on- and off-axis response (they're nearly omnidirectional), enough bass extension that you're unlikely to need a sub unless it's an unfriendly room or you're a pipe organ freak. They are quite strong down to the mid-30s at least.

I have broad musical tastes, and play a lot of LPs and a fair amount of digital sources through these speakers, including chamber music, small orchestral baroque, bombastic large orchestral music (e.g., The Planets), opera, large scale oratorios, classic rock and pop, acoustic pop (James Taylor, Gordon Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell), electric and acoustic blues, acoustic bluegrass/country, and jazz--lots of jazz, from solo guitar to small group to big band. These speakers never disappoint. They scale well from solo all the way to large ensembles, present a coherent soundstage, and yet delineate inner voices, delicate harmonies, and counterpoints easily.

As omnis, they can fill a large space without straining, but since they are small columns with two active 5.5" woofers (and one passive radiator), they're unlikely to overload mid-sized rooms. The bass speed and clarity (especially when teamed with an ICE amp) is pretty astonishing.

For best soundstage and imaging, it's best to space these speakers wider than is customary, and to have them at least 3 feet out from the walls, but when you do, what a soundstage!

The thing I like best, however, is how practical and social these speakers are. The circular, uniform dispersion means there is no venetian blinding, no suckouts, no "cupped hands" effect, no "head in a vice" requirements. Put on some music and anyone in the listening area get treated to a stable soundstage like a live performance. Great for parties and large groups. But equally adept for intimate listening for one or two.
Choose your speakers first, and then buy an appropriate amp, rather than trying to match speakers to the Bel Canto integrated amp. Since you mentioned "something like the Bel Canto S300iu", I'm assuming you haven't yet purchased an amplifier.

High sensitivity (90+ dB)/8 ohm nominal impedance/flat impedance curve (low impedance not dipping below 6 ohms) speakers will provide you the greatest latitude when selecting your amplifier.

Can you do better than the Druids in a high sensitivity, high impedance, full range loudspeaker for $2500 used? I'm not sure...maybe a Proac model? Lots of people loved the Druids for a long time until a newer, fresher rabbit showed up in the field. Buy them used for around $1500, and you'll be in good shape to try them and resell them with little loss if you don't care for them.

Having said all that, if you already own the Bel Canto S300iu, then as Shadorne said, you have a large selection of speakers from which to choose that will perform well with the amplifier. Near the top of my list would be used Vandersteen 3A Reference.
You have a easy decision. The best speakers under $2500 are the Legacy Audio Focus 20/20's. Sell your sub, and come out even better. Ive owned many speakers, and anyone who doesnt think a used Focus 20/20 isnt the best speaker or value under $2500 has lost there mind.
I really enjoy my Tyler Acoustics 7U's. I listen to a very wide range of music and they handle it all well. If you search Tyler Acoustics on the forums you can read many posts from people that are happy with them.From what I've read, they work well with tube and solid state equipment. I use them with a tube integrated amp.There are several different models they make and I'm sure you can find something used for $2500 or less that will fill your bill. No, mine are not for sale!!!!!!
Bzzzzz (buzzer sound)

Wrong answer - all of 'em. These threads continually crack me up. We can't and shouldn't tell you what you should buy. Only your ears can do that. All you are going to get from us is what WE like, and that might be a far cry from what rings your bell. How many folks read the 'gon? Thousands, tens of thousands? How many of us have the same speakers? Even if we limit the question to folks who respond to your question I doubt that you will have more than two guys who recommend the same product.

I don't know your equipment, I don't know your room, but I do know that you almost certainly hear differently than me. There is no substitution for listening to everything you can at all of the local (or not so local) dealers' and then trying out the speakers you like in your own room, with your own gear and your own listening chair and... you get the picture.

I especially like the guy who wrote "...and anyone who doesnt think a used Focus 20/20 isnt the best speaker or value under $2500 has lost there mind." Well, I've listened extensively to them, and I think that they are nice speakers, but the best? I don't think so, but that's my opinion.

I have a friend who just bought a set of Spendor S8e speakers. He is astoundingly insistent that these are the best speakers that he has ever heard. Me, not so much. But he doesn't care for my Apogees (although he is too polite to say so).

So what's the point? You can either:
1- do the work, find out for yourself what works for you and live in audio bliss (at least for a while), or
2- take someone else's advice, and take a chance that you will fundamentally agree on something for which there is usually no universal agreement, or
3- buy a good set of used speakers for a god price. Any speakers. If you don't like them, sell them and buy something else. If you shop carefully you probably will probably not lose much (you might actually get lucky and make a few bucks to cover shipping).

This is the fun part of our hobby (or obsession, as my wife kindly labels it). Enjoy
..buy a good set of used speakers for a good price.
Any speakers. If you don't like them, sell them and buy something else.
Br3098 (Answers)


Essentially what I suggested, although I did mention three possibilities to
investigate (Proac, Zu Audio, Vandersteen).

There's nothing wrong with asking for suggestions and using the
recommendations to further one's research, which is what the OP did by
starting this thread. He also mentioned an integrated amp, but he used the
work "like" as a qualifier, so it appears he may also be looking for an amp. We
don't know until he responds.

You make some excellent points, Br3098, but there's no reason to dismiss all
the suggestions. The OP wants some ideas.
These threads continually crack me up. We can't and shouldn't tell you what you should buy. Only your ears can do that.

Nobody is telling him what to buy (well, perhaps aside from one person). He asked for suggestions as to speakers he should consider looking into. By your logic, it seems to me that there would be little reason for a forum such as this to exist.

-- Al
It does give the OP a short list out of the hundreds (thousands?) of $2500 possibilities. The responses are the most helpful when accompanied by a description of the speaker's strengths and defining characteristics, such as optimum room size, typical room interaction, radiating pattern, sensitivity, tonal balance, dynamics, etc. --and whether the speaker presents an easy or tough load, sounds particularly good/bad with tubes or class D, etc.

I understand your points, and I did not mean to come off as negative or dismissive. But I sure that you will agree that of all the collective parts involved an audio system, speakers are the hardest to blindly recommend and make any assumptions regarding how they will actually sound to the individual audiophile.

Unlike (or more than) other components, speakers are "alive" in the sense that they interact with the room, the other gear, the music and the listener. I can understand and appreciate that Hapaknack is looking for suggestions, but in my opinion there are simply too many variables in the slection process for a speaker to allow any of us to provide the guy with any really useful information that will provide an accurate idea how any of our recommendations will actualy sound in his environment.

And if we can't do that, what's the point? It seems to me that, if we are providing a random sampling of opinion, any starting point is as good as any other. The guy might as well pick up a copy of Audio Advisor or look on stereophile.com.
... in my opinion there are simply too many variables
in the slection process for a speaker to allow any of us to provide the guy
with any really useful information that will provide an accurate idea how any
of our recommendations will actualy sound in his environment.

Br3098 (Answers)

Almarg had the best response to your comment.

By your logic, it seems to me that there would be little
reason for a forum such as this to exist.

-- Al
Almarg (Answers)

Br3098, if you don't believe this thread serves a useful purpose, then perhaps
you'd be better off not participating. Thus far, you've only shared the opinion
that the responses are of no value. Where's the help to the OP in that?
"Hey, pal, these guys don't know squat. Find something on your

If that's the kind of discouraging reply I received when I first started asking
questions here, I'd have never assembled a system.

I understand your point of view, but I think your attitude toward those here
who are trying to be helpful could be improved.
Referee time! Ok so lets clear up a couple things. I do not have the amp or the speakers chosen yet. I merely indicated an example of an integrated amp because that is what I intend to mate to the speakers regardless of speaker choice, to keep my amp budget in line. I started with the druids because of the 6moons review and the positive reviews on this site.

Have I listened to them in person, no. I was hoping to get a couple of points of reference to start my actual listening test with from this post.

Am I looking for a sub? Only if the speaker suggested clearly sound like its missing that last octave.

The point about room dimensions is good because that helps me know what rooms the speakers recommended will perform well in and vice versa. I haven't given the room dimensions because I will be moving in a couple of months so I don't want to shoot myself in the foot, but needless to say they will probably be in a small to medium room. Right now I am in a small loft, with hardwood floors and 20 ft ceilings. However, this will all change...

Another critical point is that I don't live near any places where I can easily audition. I have to drive quite a while to get to the nearest audiophile store.....so I am trying to plan this out as best as I can. Does this long winded post clarify anything?
Does this long winded post clarify anything?


You are starting from ground zero.

You have a budget of $2500.

You want a full range sound (based on your comment about wanting a sub
recommendation if needed), but not necessarily a full range speaker.

Do you want a speaker that will limit the type of amplifier you use with it? In
other words, do you want the flexibility to be able to experiment with a tube
amp later on? If so, you need to look for high sensitivity/8+ ohm/flat
impedance curve (minimum impedance of 6 ohms) speaker. If you don't
intend to ever try a tube amp, then your possibilities increase.

I would strongly suggest buying used speakers that can be resold, or buying
speakers that can be auditioned in your home and returned if you don't like
them. Some companies that offer this are: Zu Audio, Audiokinesis, Tyler
Acoustics, Daedalus. You might have to up your budget for new speakers, but
it could be worthwhile.

Otherwise, if you choose to buy used, then you'll have to do some serious
homework, make an educated decision, and then gird your loins and take a

You can take comfort in knowing that if you're anything like majority of folks
on Audiogon, this purchase will be just the beginning of your journey, and
whatever you buy will be replaced within a couple of years (or sooner).

FOR MY MONEY (emphasized so no one yells at me), the best bang for the buck speakers i've heard are paradigms, particularly the studio series. they're not particularly WAF-fy (wife acceptance factor), but they sound awesome in a lot of systems and rooms.

you might be very happy with a pair of studio 60s (around $1000 used, forget how much new) and it's very possible you could feel that you don't need a sub (i believe they go down to 29). i haven't heard a speaker that retails for less than 4k that i prefer to them, but, as always, you may dislike them intensely, who knows.

or you could always go mental and get a pair of studio 100s and a sub. or two subs. then your neighbors could enjoy your system with you.

as far as subs go, i'm a big fan of REL.
I think the Acoustic Zen Adagios are nice for the money. I also like the Harbeth Compact 7's. Good luck on your search.

I apologize if my earlier posts caused any distress. I guess I over-reacted to a post by one of the contributors. I realize now that I probably should have posted my message in another section.

Hapaknack, good luck with your search. There are a lot of good people here with a lot of good advice.
While in-home trials of loudspeakers are a great way to audition speakers in your home, if you don't have sources and amps yet, that could be challenging :-)

You might want to look for authorized audio dealers in your area, and see what they carry. A good dealer will carry speakers and electronics brands that offer good synergy together. It is not impossible that you might find a whole system in one spot. Room acoustics aside, if you like the sound of a particular combo of electronics and speakers in the showroom, you should like it at home. A good dealer might also be willing to let you try out the system at home for a weekend to see how it does in your listening room.

It's a good idea, IME, to cultivate a good relationship with a B&M dealer. That means you do NOT use the dealer to figure out what you like then buy it on line or used. Does this cost you more money? Perhaps, but it might be a good shortcut to a system you enjoy. Also, you might be surprised by the size of the discount you might be offered if you purchase a package from a B&M dealer (especially including cables).

Just remember to bring a variety of very familiar music with you when you go to a dealer showroom. A good dealer will let you listen extensively to your own CDs/LPs. A local dealer I like once let me spend about 2 hours choosing between to $500 CD players!
05-28-09: Bondmanp
While in-home trials of loudspeakers are a great way to audition speakers in
your home, if you don't have sources and amps yet, that could be challenging

Absolutely. It's a real Catch-22.

The OP has previously stated that he doesn't have any dealers nearby.
I would start out with a combination that has "general" concensus, like the Totem Forest with a 60-100 watt amp, or Adagios with a mid powered tube integrated, and live with that combination for a while.
You will have a very nice system that will be an excellent baseline from which to learn and experiment.
IMO you will probably end up selling some or all of it within a year or two, but at least you will get a good resale value and will have built upon the knowledge of the people in these forums.
I actually take my comment above back, and I will explain why. There are many people who have no idea what a good speaker should or does should like. Wouldnt hear distortion or hardness in a tweeter, from good sound. Wouldnt hear thin sound from full sound. Wouldnt hear a large presentation vs a small one,etc. These people wouldnt know a good speaker if they were listening to it right in front of them. So I agree, the best advice is to listen for yourself. If you are one of the people that fall the list above, then at least you can enjoy your speakers, despite the possibility that they are really terrible sounding speakers to someone who hears well. I guess that is what is most important since you will be the one listening anyway.

-There are many great speakers under $2500 to try out-Paradigm 100's, Martin Logan Ascent i's(one listed right now at $1500!!!), Legacy Audio Focus 20/20's, Magnepan 3.6, Vandersteen, and many others.
05-28-09: Bjesien
I would start out with a combination that has "general" concensus.

I generally agree with that approach. I'd suggest narrowing it down to a specific speaker once the OP decides if he wants a "tube friendly" speaker or a speaker that will be driven by a solid state amp. I believe this is an important decision to make before writing the check.

Having been down this road and having learned from doing it incorrectly, were I to do it again I'd buy a tube friendly speaker around which to build a system...but that's just my preference.

Once a decision has been reached about a specific speaker model, then the OP can search the threads or the virtual systems to see what amps others are using with the speakers.
I definitely suggest you consider used Merlin TSMs. You likely would be able to sell them for what you paid, if you keep them in good shape.
If you really love music and have a deep appreciation for the sound of live music then you should think outside the box and go Magnepan:O)
Infinity IRS Vs very nice any of the Dunlavy or Duntechs that are 6' tall or more the best is the souveriegn. The vintage rehab route a Ranger Paragon Console with the red wax sealed on the 375 horns by JBL circa 1960.
I am being silly all those are great speakers but none cost less than 20,000 not 2,500. It is imperitive you go out and listen make up a list and we can get a better idea from there.
What are your listening prefs again.
ooo, yeah, i agree with dave b, if you could ever audition a pair of magnepan 1.6, that would be great.

or if you can find a used pair of martin logan vistas, that would be worth looking into as well. i own the summits, and while there are speakers that do things more... well, for lack of a better word - "correctly", i couldn't get away from how much i loved the airiness of the sound. maggie 1.6s are great at that as well. they have two enemies, however: cats and spouses. as it turns out, i have a full house of magnepan enemies.

still think paradigms are the best bang for the buck, though, and they're idiotproof. i've had/heard many speakers that take a bit to get them to sounding good, but paradigms sound good in most set-ups.

keep us updated on your choices!
Usher BE-718. I have owned many and Usher is one of my favorite at $2k price range.
lots of great used buys from many brands...'new' however, in that range for a magnificent allrounder...klipsch, ohm, maggie (castle if you can find it)..pick your poison.
05-29-09: Jaybo
lots of great used buys from many brands...'new' however, in that range for a magnificent allrounder...klipsch, ohm, maggie (castle if you can find it)..pick your poison.
And don't forget the Canadians, eh? Mirage, Paradigm, PSB, Energy, and Totem all have excellent, well-controlled, wide-dispersion linear speakers in that price range.
I do love Totem as well...for a box design:O )
I agree, Ive seen Magnepan 3.6's go up for $2500 every great once in a while. That would be a top choice for sure-awesome! Just make sure you got the room, and you like to tinker with position.
My 3.6R's responded well to the Cardas Maggie Jumper Kit and HiFi Tuning Fuses. I also put a set of MIT Shotgun Biwire speaker cables in....SWEEEEET:O )
Hmm... I've been looking into the options that people have presented and I'm leaning towards the acoustic zen adagios since they seem to have a soundstage that isn't too narrow and they seem to work with quite a range of amps without problems. Can anyone provide any insight into these?

I thought about the magnepans and martin logans but I think I may avoid these at the moment due to the size, space and amp requirements.

Someone had asked about whether or not I wanted to go down the tube amp path. My answer to that is that while I believe tubes will provide a great sound, I think they eat up to much power and I am going to limit my use of them to the preamp stage with regular class D transistor for the muscle. However, if I go with the adagios that may not be an issue.... I have to do some more research
If you are not a bass fanatic and have an amp with at least 150wpc and have a decent size room and like a natural sound, Magnepan 1.6s. I used this and liked it so much that when I moved and had a bigger listening room, I upgraded to the 20.1s. If you like the sound of planars, you never want to hear box speakers ever again. I used a Martin Logan Dynamo subwoofer with it but this is not necessary. With the bigger Maggies I don't use a sub at this time yet.
I suggest you wait untill you move.
Maggies will spoil you for other speakers:O)
You should really try the Legacy Focus 20/20 out if you can find a local seller. They are the best speaker Ive heard. No, they might not be the most acurate, detailed, etc pair of speakers. But what they can do, is produce great music like non other Ive heard. With these speakers you can pop in any cd/album/record you want, and they all sound sweet. It has no hint of muddy bass with any recordings Ive listened to(even the bad ones), and yet goes deep and plays hard. I love modern smooth jazz, and these speakers are crazy. They throw a huge wall of sound like the magnepans and Logans(Ive owned both 3.6's and ascent i's), but are easy to place and have as much power as most pro gear(crazy spl!) I just cant say enough about these speakers, Ive never heard anything in audio that excited me like these have.